Prompting Children to Reason Proportionally: Processing Discrete Units as Continuous Amounts
Recent studies reveal that children can solve proportional reasoning problems presented with continuous amounts that enable intuitive strategies by around 6 years of age but have difficulties with problems presented with discrete units that tend to elicit explicit count-and-match strategies until at least 10 years of age. The current study tests whether performance on discrete unit problems might be improved by prompting intuitive reasoning with continuous-format problems. Participants were kindergarten, second-grade, and fourth-grade students (N = 194) assigned to either an experimental condition, where they were given continuous amount proportion problems before discrete unit proportion problems, or a control condition, where they were given all discrete unit problems. Results of a three-way mixed-model analysis of variance examining school grade, experimental condition, and block of trials indicated that fourth-grade students in the experimental condition outperformed those in the control condition on discrete unit problems in the second half of the experiment, but kindergarten and second-grade students did not differ by condition. This suggests that older children can be prompted to use intuitive strategies to reason proportionally.
Boyer, Ty W., Susan C. Levine.
"Prompting Children to Reason Proportionally: Processing Discrete Units as Continuous Amounts."
Developmental Psychology, 51 (5): 615-620.